Press Release

USRA launches new program to support student research opportunities through partnership between the U.S. Space Force and the Air Force Research Labora

By SpaceRef Editor
March 21, 2022
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Universities Space Research Association (USRA) has launched a unique partnership between the U.S. Space Force and the Air Force Research Laboratory to advance scientific and technical research at seven selected universities. The University Consortium Research Opportunity (UCRO) announcement signifies the beginning of a critical partnership between USSF and AFRL that connects government with academic research.

According to Bernard Seery, Senior Vice President, USRA Technology Research and Development, “UCRO represents an incredibly unique opportunity for USRA to support the research efforts of an array of institutions, that will effectively advance the scientific and technical prowess of both USSF and AFRL. Importantly, these established partnerships will also engage a diverse group of students and postdoctoral fellows in research that contributes to an increased understanding and appreciation for STEM workforce opportunities within both agencies.”

USRA administers the UCRO to

Link the USSF and AFRL with academia through the advancement of university-based research that addresses risks and other areas of scientific interest to secure long-term partnerships:

Improve research collaboration efforts between USSF, AFRL, and institutions of higher education to contribute and advance meaningful scientific research; and

Provide undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellows with authentic research opportunities, in collaboration with USSF and AFRL, that increase interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers of the future.

The expert management of this workforce development program leverages USRA’s knowledge and proficiency, given its proven track record in STEM education and administration of other educational programs, to foster a stronger working partnership with the USSF and AFRL in the future.  Dr. Amanda Smith Hackler, USRA Director of Education, stated, “USRA’s role administering UCRO will enable institutions to generate pertinent research critical to both USSF and AFRL. The research yielded will unquestionably support the mission of both agencies and will encourage interest in USSF and AFRL among the next generation of STEM professionals.”

The principal investigators, their institutions, and proposals selected for participation in this program include:

Dr. Michael Kinzel, University of Florida

“Industrial-Aero Optimization for Agile Rocket Cargo Delivery”

Dr. Anthony Torres, Texas State University

“Understanding the Effect of Vibration on the Crystallization of ZBLAN”

Dr. Anouck Girard, University of Michigan

“Safe Learning in Space for Proximity and Rendezvous Operations”

Dr. Siamak Farhad, The University of Akron

“On-Orbit and In-Situ Inspection and Repair of Spacecraft”

Dr. Marek Osiński, University of New Mexico

“Designer Nanoparticles for Quantum Sensing of Location and Electric Field”

Dr. Brandon Jones, The University of Texas at Austin

“Information Theoretic Detection and Tracking for Rapid IOD”

Dr. Miguel Velez-Reyes, The University of Texas at El Paso

“Innovative Analysis of Spectra-Temporal Signatures Using Machine Learning for Ground-Based Remote Sensing of Unresolved Resident Space Objects”

About USRA

Founded in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the U.S. Government, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is a nonprofit corporation chartered to advance space-related science, technology and engineering. USRA operates scientific institutes and facilities and conducts other major research and educational programs. It engages the university community and employs in-house scientific leadership, innovative research and development, and project management expertise. More information about USRA is available at

About the University Research Consortium Opportunity

The U.S. Space Force (USSF) and Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) established the University Consortium Research Opportunity (UCRO) to engage students and postdoctoral fellows in space-based research and development to increase the number and diversity of future space professionals. This is a new approach to leverage university research and advancement to solve critical USSF and AFRL technical problems. It allows the opportunity to build capacity for space research and innovation at institutes of higher education, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other designated Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). The USSF and the UCRO seek to fund university teams committed to developing new and novel solutions to research problems. 


Suraiya Farukhi, Ph.D.

Universities Space Research Association 

 443-812-6945 (Cell)

SpaceRef staff editor.